I’ve only read the New Testament cover to cover once (and I have to admit it was more an exercise in opposition research than it was a journey of spiritual discovery) so correct me if I’m wrong, but I seem to remember Christ teaching things like charity, loving thy neighbor, feeding and clothing the poor… you know, social justice stuff like that.
Thus it came as bit of a surprise to learn that Pastor Joe Fuiten — who routinely jostles with Reverend Ken Hutcherson for the role of Washington state’s loudest defender of Christian values — is in the process of turning retired ministers and missionaries out of their homes and onto the streets. I dunno… doesn’t sound very Christian to me.
I’m referring to the longtime residents of the Cedar Springs Bible Camp near Lake Stevens, who over the past thirty years, and with the Camp’s active encouragement and support, have built conventional homes on leased lots in the Camp’s five-acre residential area, and who have volunteered many hours of their time to Camp improvement projects.
The Camp leased lots only to “qualified tenants” with the stated purpose of providing low-cost, year-round residency to both active and retired Assemblies of God ministers, missionaries and lay people. Monthly leases remained low, sporadically rising by no more than 15 dollars a month from $10.50 per month in 1966 to $150.00 per month in 2004. Leases had historically been renewed annually at the option of the tenant.
That is until Pastor Fuiten’s mega-church, the Cedar Park Assembly of God, purchased the Bible Camp in 2005.
In September of 2005, Fuiten’s church offered residents a new lease that would increase rents by 83% over three years, a particular burden on the Camp’s retired seniors living on low, fixed incomes. But the most devastating alteration of the lease terms under Fuiten’s management was the elimination of the option to renew… destroying the resident’s resale value, and forcing them to abandon their houses and improvements in the event the leases are not renewed.
Under the terms of the new lease, there is only one potential buyer for the residents’ homes — Pastor Fuiten’s mega-church — which would be unjustly enriched should it choose to terminate the leases, or the tenants be unable to afford the new terms.
The residents have filed suit in Snohomish County Superior Court, and while I have no idea how the judge will rule, I’m pretty damn sure that if it were up to Christ, he’d feel a tad uncomfortable evicting a bunch of retired ministers and stealing their homes.
So now that the residents’ plight has been publicized, the question remains: what will Pastor Joe Fuiten do?